Why a One Console Future Makes Sense

   How’s this for a loaded topic? Are we headed toward a one console future? I’d like to think so and always have, since I reached the age of reason. Just think about it; right now video games are one of the only mediums where this type of media divide exists. Sure, as of now you can buy an eBook in Kindle, Nook, or iBook format but there is always ePub as a standard open format. Music has MP3s, and film has DVDs. All three are channels in which you consume your media of choice in one, universal form. When it comes to console video games, no such standard exists. I admit, video games are relatively new compared to the other major mediums. Because of this, I understand that, it's constantly evolving and fitting into what it will one day become. I just think that it’s about time we start to look into this topic a bit more logically.

Back when VHS and Betamax were fighting for the consumer standard there is was one thing that consumers wanted; and that was for one to die and a standard to emerge. The same happened in music and the same is happening with books (I’m fully aware that it’s still an on going issue with eBooks but then again, that is even newer than video games). Just recently, look at what happened to Blu-Ray and HD DVD. While both were on the market, sales were weak because consumers were scared to support one format over the other -they were afraid when the smoke cleared they’d be in the loser’s corner. The point is, these types of choices scared off potential customers. For another example, look at how cable companies are fighting for our business; some of them buying channels in order to offer them exclusively on their network, and others outright lying about what they offer. Have consumers benefited from this cable company war by paying lower prices? No, and in fact, its driven many people away. How about this, imagine buying a Sony TV that only plays channels 1-50 while a Samsung TV only plays channels 51-100. Wouldn’t you be outraged? Why are we so willing to accept it in our console games?

We’ve always had competing games and hardware; in video games, that’s just the way it’s been. But does that mean we can’t change it? As an industry we have to evolve. I’ve heard naysayers using the example of competition being hurt by having only one one console on the market. I never understood that; as if Halo doesn’t compete with Call of Duty on the Xbox 360 in sales, or Uncharted and Tomb Raider don’t compete on the Playstation 3 in popularity. As it stands now, most games are multi-platform and a good amount of them suffer for it. If there was only one console, Playstation 3 owners wouldn’t have gotten burned on the Orange Box, and Xbox 360 owners would have gotten a fully uncompressed Final Fantasy 13. A fully supported system standard rectifies that.

In a one console future, the only thing to worry about is the standard that's accepted for the hardware and the games being made. Consumers can still buy from their favorite manufacturer, the same way I buy Sharp TVs and HP computers. But with one console spec standard, there's no need to worry about the expensive alternatives or losing out on games not on your system; and of course it drops the barrier for entry on someone who is just now stepping into the hobby. As an industry, if we want to continue to grow we need to find ways others than the Wii to bring in new gamers.

It can even make economical sense. As it stands now most companies lose money on hardware for a very long time, with R&D and console launching budgets cut, companies like Sony, Microsoft and Valve can still push their services and concentrate on making and publishing games, which is where the real money is. I’d even wager that game development cost would go down as well. No need to hire a completely different team to make Portal 2 on the Playstation 3 if there is just one console to make it for.

When all is said and done, I don’t expect this to happen anytime soon. Even though gaming is in, it’s infancy, certain things needs to be addressed in order to move forward.